Grendel gongan

Richard North

  • The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature by Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge
    Cambridge, 298 pp, £30.00, June 1991, ISBN 0 521 37438 3

Not long ago it was a thousand years to the day that the Battle of Maldon was fought against the Danes. On 10 August 991, an English levy, somewhat hastily assembled and placed behind a smaller unit of professional soldiers, faced an army of Viking thugs across a causeway in Essex. That afternoon the English general, Earl Byrhtnoth, made a miscalculation that led to his death and the defeat of his force. Part of his army fled, while the others, so the poet of ‘The Battle of Maldon’ tells us, clustered round their general’s body to avenge his death with their own. An ‘old companion’ urged them to their fate with words which many former students of English might remember as something like ‘ever must he regret it who thinks he can go from this battlegame now.’

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